3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
Small business line of credit. Under a small business line of credit, your business can access funds from the lender as needed. There will be a cap on the amount of funds accessible (e.g., $100,000) but a line of credit is useful for managing a company’s cash flow and unexpected expenses. There will typically be a fee for setting up the line of credit, but you don’t get charged interest until you actually draw down the funds. Interest is typically paid monthly and the principal drawn down on the line is often amortized over years. However, most lines of credit require renewal annually, which may require an additional fee. If the line is not renewed, you will be required to pay it in full at that time.
According to Hecht, online lenders tend to stay away from lending to startup businesses: “The longer you’ve been around, the easier it is for you to get funding from an online lender.” Even though his business is based on online lenders, “we’re not anti-bank,” says Hecht. He advises every entrepreneur to begin their financing process by going to their local bank first to see what they have to offer.
As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kate Williams, Ph.D. believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase. She spends countless hours researching companies and industries before writing buyers guides to make sure consumers have all the information they need to make smart, informed buying decisions.
A Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) lets you take retirement funds from a 401(k), traditional IRA, or other eligible retirement account and invest them in your franchise, without having to pay taxes or an early withdrawal penalty. You can fund all or part of your business through a ROBS. Funds from a ROBS can be used as a down payment on larger financing, like an SBA loan, or to bridge the gap between other piecemeal loan financing options, like equipment leases, etc. Funds from a ROBS can also be used for franchise fees, consulting fees, and other costs that traditional loans often can’t be used for.
Length of lease term. Landlords are typically willing to make concessions for longer-term leases. However, your company’s needs may change and you could find yourself locked into a lease for an office space that is too small, too big, or with rent that is above-market if demand for space subsequently declines. Try to negotiate a shorter-term lease with renewal options—a two-year lease with a two-year renewal option, for instance, rather than a four-year lease.
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]
Qualifying for an SBA loan as a new business isn’t easy. You generally need to have a strong credit score (ideally above 680), some collateral, and a 10-20% down payment. However, a large percentage of SBA loans go to franchises because lenders can easily access loan performance data for franchises and predict the franchise’s ability to pay back the loan.
He is president of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm that helps companies improve customer service. Jeff has appeared on numerous lists of top customer service experts including Global Gurus' World's Top 30 Customer Service Professionals, ICMI's Top 50 Thought Leaders to Follow on Twitter, and HDI's Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management.
ApplePie Capital (see our review) is an online lender that specializes in franchise financing. Founded in 2014, ApplePie was one of the first online lenders to offer franchise financing. After recently acquiring another franchise lender, ApplePie has expanded its offering to include SBA-backed loans, equipment loans, and conventional loans, in addition to its original “core” 3-7 year loan.
In some instances the franchise itself will extend financing to you. Some companies, like 7- Eleven, actually build the store for new franchisees and lease the location to you, meaning you incur minimal startup costs and the transaction is handled directly between you and the franchisor. Others, like Subway may buy back locations from existing franchisees and then sell them to you as a new location, meaning you'll be handed an established store, sometimes with existing employees and inventory.
Borrowers have multiple options for SBA-backed loans, including microloans with a six-year repayment term to allow new businesses to borrow up to $50,000; 7(a) loans that allow companies to borrow up to $5 million; and 504 loans, available for up to $5.5 million for smaller businesses with a net income under $5 million and a net worth below $15 million.
The last part is often translated as “often go awry”, and I’m sure you understand the sense: no matter how carefully you plan, things rarely go as expected. We live in a complex, interconnected world, and even if you do everything right, your business could be knocked sideways by a sudden economic meltdown, a real estate crash, a war on the other side of the world that raises prices for your raw materials, the sudden entry of a powerful competitor into your turf, and much more.
Loans backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are a favorite of franchisees, since they tend to have higher limits and lower rates than commercial loans. However, SBA loans come with strict requirements, including the need to prove that you don’t have the ability to obtain a loan from traditional lenders. Partner institutions disburse and administer the loans with SBA approval and application requirements tend to be quite extensive.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.
The loan officer takes your application, and in some cases, all of the applications she has received during a set time period, to a credit committee, and the committee determines whether or not a loan gets approved. This is why it’s so important to have the loan officer on your side–you need someone standing up for you in front of the credit committee when you can’t be present.
You also will need to file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations. The forms you need are determined by your business structure. A complete list of the forms each type of entity will need can be found on the SBA website. You can also find state-specific tax obligations there. Some businesses may also require federal or state licenses and permits to operate. You can use the SBA's database to search for licensing requirements by state and business type.
Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on Internet, digital media, and software companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, FoxBusiness, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and, co-author of Poker for Dummies and Mergers and Acquisitions of Privately Held Companies (Bloomberg), and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate and M&A partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. He has been involved in over 200 M&A transactions and 250 startup financings. He can be reached through LinkedIn.
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If you’re like the majority of new startups, cash flow will be your primary concern. You can have the best business plan in the world, but it won’t be of any use if you don’t have the money to keep the lights on while you’re getting your feet on the ground. With this, it’s important to know what resources are available to make the initial growth period a lot easier.
A ROBS let’s you fund all, or part, of your new franchise with retirement savings (401k, IRA, 403b, etc) without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. If you have at least $50,000 in your eligible retirement account a ROBS can help you fund 100% of your franchise, be combined with seller financing, or be used as a downpayment for an SBA loan. Learn more by speaking with our recommended ROBS provider, Guidant, who offers an initial free consultation.
But not every small business is positioned for success. In fact, only about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, and about half survive five years. So you may be in for a real challenge when you decide to take the plunge, ditch your day job, and become a business owner. The stage is often set in the beginning, so making sure you follow all of the necessary steps when starting your business can set the foundation for success.
Overcoming this problem is easier than it used to be, thanks to the plethora of marketing opportunities on the internet. Many of them, of course, are free or low cost, but don’t forget that your time is also an investment. So don’t make the mistake of signing up for every social media site out there and letting your valuable time dribble away in tweets and status updates.
Online lenders provide small-business loans and lines of credit from $500 to $500,000. The average APR on these loans ranges from 7% to 108%, depending on the lender, the type and size of the loan, the length of the repayment term, the borrower’s credit history and whether collateral is required. These lenders rarely can compete with traditional banks in terms of APR.